Review: Peter Pan (Soulpepper/Bad Hats Theatre)

Peter PanEnchanting Peter Pan musical takes flight over the Toronto stage

Fly out of the nursery and into an exciting world of adventure in Soulpepper’s current production: an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s famous 1904 play, Peter Pan. The Dora award-winning production premiered by Bad Hats Theatre in 2015 was adapted by cast members Fiona Sauder (Peter Pan) and Reanne Sptizer (Mrs. Darling/Tinkerbell). The script appeared to be relatively faithful to the 1904 text, with the notable exclusion of Peter Pan’s adventures with “Indian” princess Tiger Lily. The music by cast member Landon Doak is fresh and new. I took my five-year-old son and we were both delighted by the songs and dances.

The story was new for my little one, and he seemed to be quite engrossed. My kid is a perpetual motion machine and the play is over an hour long. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit worried about taking him. Sure enough, he was having difficulty sitting for the last 20 minutes, which were also past his bedtime. But he still wanted to know how the story turned out, so he worked hard to keep it together.

It is no surprise he was captivated by the story. I know what happens and I was enthralled. It was clear that the talented cast was having a whale of a time bringing these classic and beloved characters to life. Consistent with the world of imagination and fantasy we find ourselves in, the set and props meant different things in different contexts. The characters were also mutable. Reminiscent of a dream state, many of the actors played multiple parts.

Each performer brought the innocence and freedom of childhood to the performance. Fiona Sauder played Pan with devilish delight and exuded the confident certainty of success that comes from a naïve child’s limited experience with failure. I was convinced right along with Wendy, John, and Michael that I could leave behind adult cares and fly out into a starry night of adventure.

Lena Maripuu was a phenomenal Wendy. She appeared to have great enthusiasm for the role and demonstrated a sophisticated interpretation of her transition from a girl caged in the “nursery” of 19th century femininity to a bold young swashbuckler who does not need boys to protect her from pirates.

I also loved Graham Conway’s hilariously campy, over-the-top Captain Hook. He also played the children’s patient, befuddled father George Darling. His comically awkward body language maintained a thread of commonality between these dissimilar characters that sustained the fluidity of the transitions from Neverland to the real world.

Similar to Hook/Mr. Darling, Reanne Spitzer’s interpretation of Mrs. Darling/Tinkerbell seemed to represent the light and dark sides of the same persona. As Mrs. Darling, she was credible as the doting mother whose heart will always wait for her children to come back through the window. As Tinkerbell she was impish, channelling that same loving focus into her role as the jealous would be love interest. Her emotive high-pitched fairy speak also got lots of giggles from adults and kids alike.

This show is wonderful, carefree fun. Seeing it through my kids’ eyes was like seeing the tale for the first time. Well worth staying up a bit past bedtime.

Details:

  • Peter Pan is playing until December 31, 2017 at Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tankhouse Lane, Distillery Historic District, Toronto, Ontario)
  • Show times are 7:00 PM on December 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, & 30; with additional matinees at 1:00 PM on December 16, 17, 23, 24, 28, 30 & 31; and 4:00 PM on December 17, 24, & 31 .
  • Ticket prices range from $25 – $40. Students and children pay $25.
  • Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-866-8666 (long distance 1-888-898-1188), or boxoffice@youngcentre.ca.

Photo of Matthew Finlan, Jocelyn Adema, Victor Pokinko, Lena Maripuu, Richard Lam, Tal Shulman, and Landon Doak by Nicholas Porteous.